Sudan moves out militia before inspectors arrive

Monday, October 4, 2004

Sudan has moved hundreds of Arab militiamen out of Darfour in order to conceal them from foreign military observers, according to Western diplomatic sources.

Sudanese rebel sources said most of the members of the state-financed Janjaweed militia have been removed from war-torn Darfour to other provinces ahead of the arrival of African Union monitors.

The African Union plans to deploy 3,500 troops and monitors to end the fighting in Darfour, Middle East Newsline reported. The proposed contingent was also said to include 800 African Union policemen.

Western diplomatic sources confirmed the SPLA assertion. Both the United Nations and the Sudanese Verification and Monitoring Teams mission have expressed concern over the movement of Janjaweed.

Janjaweed, an Arab tribal force, has been accused of spearheading the regime drive against Darfour rebels, said to have killed about 50,000 black Africans and displacing more than 1.4 million.

"I can confirm that they are now in the Blue Nile on the Ethiopian border," Sudanese People's Liberation Army commander John Garang told a news conference in Cairo. "At least some 200 were taken there."

The SPLA has been negotiating a permanent settlement to end the 20-year-old civil war in southern Sudan, a conflict said to be unconnected to Darfour. But the Khartoum regime has accused the SPLA of supporting the Darfour rebellion, which began in early 2003.

"We also have reports that some of them [Janjaweed] were taken to eastern Sudan as well as in the oil areas in the south," Garang said on Sept. 30. "They are in three areas other than Darfour."

UN officials have urged the Security Council to press for the establishment of an international police presence in Darfour to monitor and secure displaced persons camps. UN Human Rights commissioner Louise Arbour said some of the displaced persons have recognized Janjaweed fighters as officers in the camps.

For his part, Sudanese President Omar Bashir, an ally of Egypt, has accused the United States of encouraging the rebellion in Darfour. Bashir said the United States equipped rebel fighters during their 18-month-old campaign.

"The United States is the one behind it," Bashir told the Egyptian state-owned Al Ahram daily. "They drove the rebels to Eritrea, held training camps, spent money, armed them, and gave them cell phones to communicate between each other from one place to another around the world."

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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